Punter Matt Mengel takes unorthodox path to UCLA

Matt Mengel punts during UCLA's 42-35 win over Memphis on Sept. 6, 2014.

Matt Mengel punts during UCLA’s 42-35 win over Memphis on Sept. 6, 2014.

After graduating from Pacific Lutheran High, Matt Mengel considered joining the military. Then he tried out as a wide receiver for Los Angeles Harbor College. Now, he’s UCLA’s starting punter.

Here’s the full story on Mengel’s unusual path to major college football, from Tyler Hendrickson.

Some of the other content in today’s Daily News:
– AT&T Stadium won’t be a distraction for UCLA, but it’s near the top of some Bruins’ must-play-at lists.
– Cornerback Fabian Moreau and the UCLA secondary haven’t played up to high preseason expectations.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Weekly Q&A — 9/9/14 Answers

Q: You have been around more UCLA football over the past year than any of us. Has your perception or expectations for the team changed after watching the first two games, or are you not surprised by their performance?

A: Before the season started, I thought that the hype had gotten a little out of control. Sure it had talent, but I figured UCLA to be more of a top-15 team until it proved otherwise — most likely on the outside looking in once the College Football Playoff rolled around. But I certainly didn’t expect the Bruins to look as inconsistent as they have through two games.

I still think there’s plenty of time for the Bruins to find their groove (on both sides of the ball) and win the Pac-12 South. As for knocking off Oregon (presumably the Pac-12 North champ) for the outright conference title — that looks real tough right now.

Q: I know Virginia and Memphis aren’t top-25 caliber teams, but am I dumb for thinking that they appeared to at least be .500 teams this year?

A: No, I think that could be the ceiling for both those teams, and they’ll be helped by playing in the ACC and the AAC, respectively. But they could also end up at three wins each. It’s just difficult to say given the small sample size at this point. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Five questions: Austin American-Statesman’s Ryan Autullo talks Texas

In what was supposed to be its first marquee game of the season, UCLA heads to AT&T Stadium to face a Texas squad coming off a 41-7 beating by BYU. Ryan Autullo, who covers Texas for the Austin-American Statesman, answered five questions about the Longhorns.

1. What are the most significant ways that first-year head coach Charlie Strong has changed the program since he arrived?

Strong is trying to eliminate the culture of entitlement that ultimately signaled the downfall of his predecessor, Mack Brown. Under Brown, players rode an air-conditioned bus a half mile to practice. Now they walk. Until late in preseason camp, Strong forbade players from flashing the Horns hand sign. Additionally, the coach ordered the removal of the Longhorns logo from helmets. It’s all about getting tougher as a program and understanding the value of playing at Texas, Strong says.

2. Of all the players Strong has dismissed/suspended, which ones do the Longhorns miss the most?

Great question. I’d say suspensions to offensive tackles Kennedy Estelle and Desmond Harrison hurt the most. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Jim Mora: UCLA embraces ‘underdog’ mentality

Touted widely as a national title contender, UCLA was favored by 20-plus points against both Virginia and Memphis.

The Bruins escaped Charlottesville with a 28-20 decision, and held off the Tigers 42-35 at the Rose Bowl last weekend. Needless to say, many analysts are rethinking UCLA’s position on the college totem poll. After starting the season ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press poll, the Bruins have dropped to No. 12 — falling behind USC (ranked ninth) for the first time since Oct. 28, 2012.

The problems have been difficult to narrow down. In the season opener against Virginia, UCLA scored three defensive touchdowns and held the Cavaliers to 4.6 yards per play — carrying a stuttering offense to victory. In the home opener against Memphis, the Bruins rolled up 540 yards of offense but allowed 469.

But can an underperforming 2-0 squad now be considered an underdog? Head coach Jim Mora wants it that way.

“I don’t want expectations to become a burden,” he said Tuesday. “Knocking us back on track — no. Maybe just refocusing a little bit. Getting back to the roots of who we are. We’re an underdog. That’s who we are. We like it when people doubt us. That helps inspire us. I’m not saying it should, but it does. …

“I just think we were tight. I think that we let the outside expectations become a little bit of a burden for us.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

First look: Texas Longhorns

No. 12 UCLA Bruins (2-0) vs. Texas Longhorns (1-1)
Kickoff: 5:15 p.m. PT, AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
TV: FOX (Gus Johnson, Charles Davis, Molly McGrath)
Radio: 1150 KTLK (Chris Roberts, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)

Coach: The defensive coordinator during Florida’s 2006 and 2008 BCS title runs, Charlie Strong coached Louisville for four seasons — finishing his tenure there with a 12-1 campaign. He is one of the few black head coaches in college football. He quickly began cleaning house at Texas, ostensibly to reshape what had become a lax program in the latter years of Mack Brown.

Strong kicked eight Longhorns off the team — including two who were charged with felony sexual assault — and suspended four more. Those still missing include offensive tackles Kennedy Estelle, who started eight games as a sophomore, and Desmond Harrison.

Key players:

QB Tyrone Swoopes, So., 6-4, 243 — 20/31, 176 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 7 carries, 7 rushing yards
– Only ever practiced with the second-team offense until starting quarterback David Ash suffered another concussion. The former four-star dual-threat prospect looked capable, but not exceptional in his first start of his career. The team hasn’t trusted him to throw deep often.

RB Johnathan Gray, Jr., 5-11, 215 — 30 carries, 129 yards
– Was on track to be Texas’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2007 before tearing his Achilles last November. The former five-star recruit insists he hasn’t lost a step after rushing for 1,481 yards and seven scores in the last two seasons. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email